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  • Restored 'David' Had Laser Treatment
Jan 2004
CHELMSFORD, Mass., Jan. 22 -- When Italy's National Museum of the Bargello, in Florence, decided to put Verrocchio's David on the road in the US, conservators wanted the 15th-century, four-foot bronze sculpture to look its best. Its recent restoration with an Nd:YAG laser not only revived the masterpiece, it also gave art historians a better look at it.

Nd:YAG MAKEOVER: A restoration using Nd:YAG laser technology altered art historians' interpretation of Verrocchio's David, now on exhibit at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. (Photo: Copyright Antonio Quattrone, Firenze) Andrea del Verrocchio, David with the head of slain Goliath outside his right foot (Italian, 1435 - 1488), c. 1465, Bronze, Height: 47-1/4 inches, National Museum of the Bargello, Florence.
   For David's first restoration since its creation, a surgically precise Nd:YAG laser, adapted to work on stone and metal, was developed by engineers at Florence-based El. En., the parent company of Cynosure Inc., a Chelmsford, Mass., maker of cosmetic and medical lasers. The laser was used to remove centuries of varnish and dirt by noninvasively penetrating precisely to the level of the fine gold leaf gilding that highlighted the sculpture's surface.

Cynosure said the restoration of David significantly altered the interpretation of the piece by art historians, reinforcing the theory that it is most probably a portrait by Verrocchio of his most famous pupil, Leonardo da Vinci.

El. En.'s lasers have been used in several restorations in Italy: Giambologna's "The Rape of the Sabine Women" sculpture, Donatello's "Prophet Abacus" statue, the Cupola and Pisano's reliefs of Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo), the facades of the Church of St. Frediano and the Priory of Povia; and on the bas reliefs of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

Conservator Ludovica Nicolai at the Bargello conducted the restoration, a collaboration between the Bargello and the High Museum in Atlanta, Ga., where it's on exhibit until Feb. 8. It will also be shown Feb. 13-March 21 at the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, DC. Both exhibits are being supported by Worldspan L.P.

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